Friday, 19 February 2016

Kelso - Morebattle Hurdle Day

Thursday February 18th

KELSO – Heavy (Soft in places)

The Morebattle meeting is one of Kelso’s top meetings of the season, with decent prize money for two conditions event but small fields for reasons discussed later in this piece.

We were among a group of Kelso Annual Members sponsoring a couple of races on the card. The hospitality in the Younger Stand was excellent, the superb is really good, and the coast was very reasonable. We will certainly return next year assuming a similar sponsorship arrangement is put in place.

I led the sweepstake held in the hospitality box going into the last race but was foiled as I could only manage a second place and a couple of others passed me. It was a hot contest as three winners, two seconds and a third only earned me third place! Can’t really complain though since it was a bumper that let me down and they are my favourite ‘jump’ races.

The going was reported as ‘very testing’ by a number of jockeys. The first hurdle in the straight and the nearby open ditch were omitted all afternoon.

1.20 2m Kelso Annual Members Novices’ Hurdle (Class 4)

My wife and I were among the group on ‘Best Turned Out’ selection duty for this contest. The party selected Barry Murtagh’s SCRUTINY as the winner with Liz Butterworth on duty and she’s also listed as owner of this one. A multiple winner on the flat up to 10 furlongs, Scrutiny looked fit, but didn’t look at all happy slogging round here in the winter mud. He was detached by halfway and pulled up before the last.
Three came clear and look at least fair animals. The winner ROAD TO GOLD got outpaced by his two main rivals coming around the home bend, but picked up nicely going the last and won going away. A pointing winner in Ireland, this one shouldn’t struggle if upped in trip.
WESTERN RULES has run into one or two decent sorts. He seems to lack an extra gear at the business so is probably suited by the tactics adopted to set the pace. He held every chance at the last but found the winner too strong up the final hill.
The mare WATER SPRITE came here off the back of a Clonmel maiden hurdle on balance a 7 length third here was about an equivalent performance. She would have every chance in a mares’ race with a penalty and her trainer should find a suitable race for her.

The remainder were well beaten. FINAL FLING showed a glimmer of promise in bumeprs but hasn’t built on that in three hurdle races. RED MYSTQUE hasn’t got close over hurdles and his best efforts have been on better ground. ANNA GREY pulled up here, having been beaten a very long way on debut.

1.55 2m 7½f Border Hotel Kirk Yetholm Handicap Chase (108-125)

A disappointing turn out for a decent prize, but with consistent heavy going the sloggers are spread thinly.

ROCKING BLUES doesn’t have a huge amount of miles on the clock for an 11-year-old. He looks progressive now and bounded clear from before the last to win with any amount in hand.
CARRIGDHOUN set the pace and was headed after two out. He rallied but was held by a better handicapped horse.
GOLD OPERA’s jumping was sketchy and he paid the price. He held every chance passing the omitted open ditch, but weakened quickly. He has to prove he stays this trip and his jumping needs to sharpen.
LUCEMATIC lost touch on the long run from two out and has been below form on two runs this year.
REDKALANI was on and off the bridle and lost down the far side for the last time, pulling up before three out.

2.30 2m 2f Morebattle Hurdle (Class 2)

Pre-race discussion amongst the centred on the small fields for the main events. One suggested that this race should be made a handicap. This is understandable, but therein lies the problem. I strongly suspect the reason is that those running horses against highly rated runners are frightened of finishing too close and handicap mark suffering.
There’s an easy solution to the above. Firstly you have to have a handicap mark and secondly mark can’t be changed after a run in such an event.
With the Champion Hurdle market wide open TOP NOTCH came here as an outside contender for the title. He did prospects no harm, easing clear on the bridle with minimum of fuss.
ONE FOR HARRY ran to his best, driven to stay with Top Notch approaching the last but easily left behind once headed.
CHIC NAME was comfortably outpaced by the first two on the long run from two out.
CROCO BAY set a decent pace but weakened in the home straight. He presumably has a Cheltenham chase as a target.

3.05 3m 2f Ivan Straker Memorial Chase (Class 2)

This event had a sad conclusion since NEPTUNE EQUESTER collapsed and died on the horse walk returning after the race. He had been in fine form, having won the Borders National and went out on a high, producing as good a performance as any he had to chase home Unioniste. He took the race to the winner but was outpointed and sadly the after effects claimed him.
UNIONISTE was headed after two out but driven to lead and pulled clear. He jumped soundly here is aimed at the Grand National, but he tipped up early last year and has a moderate record in big fields.
SOLL ran a lack lustre race in conditions which should have suited. He was struggling on the final circuit and eventually allowed to come home in his own time.
CORRIN WOOD Was readily outpaced from the twelfth and pulled up soon after. He is another entered in the National, but this run offered no encouragement.

3.40 2m 6½f Kelso Annual Members Handicap Hurdle (104-124)

The curse of the low sun struck so that the final hurdle was removed and only 6 jumped in the race.

SHADES OF MIDNIGHT was considered worth a run in the Grade 2 novice here last year. I always felt there was more to come and he proved it in emphatic style at this level. He came well clear after turning for home. Difficult to judge from with so few hurdles though, and I would keep an eye on how the handicapper views the performance.
PILGRIMS BAY had every chance on the final turn but was well outpaced by the winner. He came clear of the remainder but tied up and was pipped for third on the line.
KINDOFEASY shared or took the lead for much of the way. He was outpaced by the winner but saw his race out to the line to snatch second place and lacks for nothing in attitude.
TEDDY TEE weakened on the long run-in.
LANDECKER raced prominently but he’s a difficult character, although he is capable on his day, and dropped away from the home turn.

4.15 2m 7½f P & G Allan Catering Open Hunters’ Chase (Class 5)

It paid to stick with proven stayers in this race as there were stamina doubts about some of the fancied runners. No fences in the home straight due to low sun.

DURBAN GOLD is an out-and-out stayer, and ideally probably needs further, but the gruelling conditions allowed her stamina to kick in up the home straight. Watch out for this one in the more extreme distance hunter contests.
WICKLOW LAD loves these conditions and was given every chance by Kit Alexander who kicked on entering the final circuit. He kept on for second place and is worth considering when the ground is deep.
MISTER MARKER stays well but didn’t have the pace to lay up in the latter stages.
BARACHOIS SILVER is well below second and third in the official figures and ran creditably before giving way in the home straight. She runs honest races and worth an interest in the weaker hunter events.
WAYUPINTHESKY was held no the long run-in. He needs to raise his game in this company.
HAVANA JACK scored in a poor maiden point at Balcormo and was up against it here, well behind from two out.
This was too much of a stamina test for BOBCATBILLY who didn’t help his cause by pulling hard early on.
KINGS GREY is a non-stayer and would need to be aimed at the shorter hunter events on better ground.

4.50 2m Racing UK in HD Next Month Standard Open NH Flat (Class 6)

Only two got seriously involved at the business end.

LADY BEAUFORT is quite a compact sort, well prepped for her first outing. She wore down the favourite in the final furlong, the pair well clear. A good start and she is a half-sister to four winners including Kadarann so there must be good prospects going forward.
RANDY PIKE was forward enough on debut as is normally the case with Richards’s runners. He responded well and picked up when driven two out, but was worn down in the latter stages. He’s got plenty to like about him and should make up into a jumper.
BRACKENMOSS RORY is related to chasing winners. He’s far from the finished product but kept on steadily without matching the first two. This was promising and he will produce better in time.
MOVE TO THE GROOVE, well presented as is the norm for McCain runners, led at a steady pace but was tapped for pace from two furlongs out. He is likely to be a different proposition once he has jumps in front of him.

I got chapter and verse on COACHIE BEAR. His previous stable didn’t really have a clear plan with this big chasing type and he had a physical on his sole outing last year. He has now changed hands and resides in Katie Scott’s yard, connections using this as a fact finding mission more than anything else. On that basis a prominent run and a fifth place must be encouraging. It might take time but there is a jumper waiting in this one.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Musselburgh Cheltenham Trials Day

MUSSELBURGH – Sunday February 7th

Going – Soft (Good to Soft in places)

A rather wild day for Musselburgh’s biggest fixture of the jumps season, Cheltenham Trials Day, with rain in the early part of the afternoon accompanied by strong winds. The going turned officially soft, though soft here is like good to soft elsewhere and it wasn’t excessively testing.

Only three fences in the straight once again due to course alignment to save newly laid turf and a run-in of a furlong and a half.

1.00 1m 7½f Skybet Supreme Scottish Trail Novices’ Hurdle (Class 2)

CHARBEL was held by Yanworth at Ascot last time in a Grade 2, but found this contest easier and made all comfortably. He pulled clear from two out and merits a visit to Cheltenham where he should be capable of pitching for places.
BRAIN POWER was well fancied here after a win at Kempton first time up over hurdles. He chased the leader up the straight but couldn’t make any impression. He’s a nice enough sort and there should be further races to be won as experience is gained.
IMPULSIVE AMERICAN has yet to score over hurdles but kept on honestly enough for a decent third place. Handicaps may offer his best chances.
ALWAYS RESOLUTE was held from three out and found this a bit competitive.
AZZURRI wasn’t disgraced no hurdling debut in fifth, given that this was a tough race. He can make a mark if his sights are lowered.
SIMON SQUIRREL was disappointing and beaten quite a way out.
LAC LEMAN was getting the worst of the argument when slithering and almost coming down three out. He was quickly pulled up, but appeared none the worse.
ALTRUISM was never going and pulled up as Richard Johnson reported he had lost his action.

2.00 2m toteexacta Scottish Champion Chase (for the Bowes-Lyon Trophy) (115-136)

CHESTNUT BEN had a tough task at Doncaster last time, but eased in class a little back at the course he previously won at he stepped up to the plate. Jumping nicely, he was always in touch, came to challenge two out and took charge on the run-in.
Winning jockey Ryan winks did a flying dismount and then, encouraged by Derek Thompson, gave a rendition of ‘We Are The Champions’ for the throng! He does a tidy job as a jockey and there are plenty of worse 7lb claiming amateurs on the scene.
YORKIST has dropped to a workable mark and looked a possible winner two out before being run out of it. A sound enough effort.
QUITO DU TRESOR was never near the leaders, but stuck on well enough to take third place on the run-in. He’s running well enough but is difficult to win with these days.
THE GREY TAYLOR raced prominently for much of the way, and still held a chance at the last, but weakened quickly on the run-in.
AYE WELL finished a never dangerous fifth.
GOT THE NAC raced too freely in front and faded once headed three out.
IRISH THISTLE never got seriously into the race and nor did MY BROTHER SYLVEST, both well beaten.
FULL SHIFT was reported as not suited by the ground, but it isn’t very soft here and the excuse doesn’t really wash. Maybe he didn’t take the long trip well?

2.00 1m 7½f totetrifecta Scottish Triumph Hurdle (Listed)

A disappointing turn out, but juvenile hurdles have struggled for runners in recent times. There was a time when many horses would have tried hurdling off a three-year-old flat career, but these days the all-weather conveyor belt reduces the flow of hurdlers.
TOMMY SILVER wasn’t particularly convincing with his jumping but came clear from two out to win with a bit to spare. Talk of the Triumph Hurdle seem optimistic as this form probably doesn’t rate higher than 130 at best, given the third seemed below form. He should improve with time though.
ASHOKA put in a sound effort in second, the only one to seriously threaten the winner. He could make no impression from two out.
SIR CHAUVELIN was below his previous best, though stayiong on in the latter stages to take third.
SIKANDAR struggled from three out and a current rating of 114 looks his level. There will be easier opportunities.

2.30 2m 4f Scottish Future Champions Novices’ Chase (Class 3)

Only two got seriously involved in this…, until the last 100 yards when FIVE IN A ROW stayed on from the clouds to mug the other two main contenders. He was struggling four out and looked well held, and even at the last looked comfortably held some 15 lengths down. However, he picked up in the final furlong and came steaming past Sametegal and Ittirad to win by half a length going away. What this form is worth is anyone’s idea, but the winner does stay further.
SAMETEGAL looked the likely winner at the last and was holding his main chaser until passed in the shadow of the post. Sam Twiston-Davies reproached himself afterwards, but would have won 99 times out of 100 from his position with 100 yards to go.
ITTIRAD appeared to find this trip just stretching his stamina. He didn’t help by belting three out and then clambering the last.  Two miles on good or fast ground looks his bag and he may be worth holding back now for the spring.
OVERTHEEDGE fluffed his ‘pootle round for fourth prize’ opportunity, crashing out at the third, though he was apparently unscathed.

3.00 1m 7½f totepool Supporting Scottish Racing Scottish County Hurdle (Handicap) (121-150)

This is generally a competitive heat that takes some winning and it was pleasing the home brigade produced an impressive winner. Upwardly mobile Iain ‘Scobie’ Jardine has some decent animals in his stable, and as progressive as any is SHREWD who came to challenge at the last and quickly put distance between himself and his rivals. Jardine has his eye on the consolation race at Kempton, a plan which involves not making the cut at Cheltenham. I don’t think Cheltenham will suit him so watch his trainer’s placing carefully.
VENDOR was thereabouts all the way and kept on well enough to hold second place. He’s probably pretty much on his mark at 138 and ran to it here.
CARDINAL WALTER is more lightly raced than the others and ran an encouraging third, having held every chance going to the last. He looks well capable of picking up a handicap off his current mark and is worth putting in the notebook going forward.
ZAIDITN held a chance going to the last but didn’t land running and that cost him a place or two. There should be handicap for him on good ground.
HAWK HIGH needs better ground and was outpaced before the home turn. He rallied to hold some chance but was held before the last.
ARISTO DU PLESSIS holds a Champion Hurdle entry, but he didn’t to win this comfortably to justify that and he wasn’t up to it. He raced keenly as ever, possibly doing a little too much in this company, and was found out before the last. He would probably be better suited by a quicker surface and his target is the Scottish Champion Hurdle.

3.30 2m 7½f Albert Bartlett Scottish Trial Hurdle (Novices) (Class 2)

A small field but a decent contest run at a searching pace.

O O SEVEN strayed on gamely to hold two decent rivals. Cheltenham is a stiffer test, and whether he is quite Cheltenham Festival class is debatable but he is a decent performer.

FAGAN was on my list of horses to follow on the basis of a bumper win against decent performer Meet The Legend. This is his sort of trip, but I get the impression he needs quicker ground to show his best. I fancy he will improve over this sort of trip on better ground.
DELUSIONOFGRANDEUR caught my eye at Carlisle early season when second to impressive Shantou Village. He set an honest pace here and, having been caught for toe going to the last, fought back determinedly on the run-in. A genuine stamina test looks ideal.
CALIVGNY was outclassed here but brought home in his own time for fourth prize.

4.00 3m 2½f Northern Point-to-Point Scottish Foxhunter Chase (Class 3)

A battle of attrition with the cut in the ground, one that suits RAILWAY DILLON as much as any. He has never looked the most straightforward character to my mind, but talented Emma Todd has formed a decent relationship with him in recent times. Her mounting style in the paddock was rather ungainly, but all went swimmingly after that. Railway Dillon will now be aimed at Cheltenham, but I fancy targeting one or two other extreme tests might pay.
PENA DORADA made a most encouraging debut for his stable. He was just outbattled after the last, but lost little in defeat and looks nailed on for a Northern hunter chase before long.
NOWURHURLIN would have found this trip stretching his stamina and was held from three out. He’s one of the better Northern Area performers and should find a hunter chase before long over shorter trip. Watch out for him at Kelso.
The remainder were pulled up.
The ground was softer than ideal for ISLA PEARL FISHER and he never got competitive. On quicker ground he should go close at this level.
This trip is well beyond NEAREST THE PIN’s best and a significant drop in distance is required.
NO LOOSE CHANGE made some headway from the eleventh, but was struggling soon after and can blow hot and cold.
DAMIENS DILEMMA led but weakened quickly once headed with a mile to go.
PHARAWAYDANTE was way out of his depth on Rules debut.
LITTLE FRITZ skewed at the first and his jockey was jettisoned.

4.30 3m 2fPertemps Network Handicap Hurdle (Qualifier) (128-154)

Off a long break CUP FINAL was backed down to a very short price for what looked a competitive event. He held off a serious challenge from the last and now goes to the Final of this event, the paln top go chasing on hold for a while.
WARRIOR’s TALE pestered the winner up the run-in and lost little in defeat.
TAGLIATELLE was making eye-catching progress when blundering three out. Taking a little while to recover, he could never quite get to the leaders but stayed on well to take third place. Off a mark of 154 he won’t have many opportunities but is worth noting if contesting a handicap on good ground.
We had a chat with Sandy Thomson pre-race and he said that SELDOM INN has generally run decent race with excuses when he hasn’t fired. His jumping hasn’t been sharp enough over fences so he was tried back in a hurdle. He led three out and held a chance going to the last but was held on the run-in.
SY KHAN stayed on from the rear without threatening. He is another that would be ideally suited by slightly better ground.
CALL THE COPS who struggled with the cut. He’s better than his well held effort here and will have opportunities as the ground dries out.

MUSSELBURGH – Monday February 8th

ASCOT DE BRUYERE was an eye-catching winner of the opening novices hurdle and can win again under a penalty. DUBAI DEVILS kept on well enough for second, clear of a fair marker in third and should win a similar contest.
BOP ALONG has needed a trip and ran a promising third handicapped over a three mile trip here. He was off the track for a while but is gradually coming to himself and should be capable of taking a similar contest.
The bumper won by Atomix turned into a three furlong sprint. However, keep an eye out for MULTIPEDE, outpaced before two out, but picking up nicely to stay on to take fifth place.